A wave of memories danced onto stage at the Raven’s Cry Theatre Oct. 28 in a show that blended live performance with video interviews of Coast talents whose lives changed through dance.
The Sechelt Arts Festival hosted the retrospective dance program, co-produced by Diana Robertson and Janet Oxley, showcasing the ongoing work of 30 years of the Sunshine Coast Dance Society. The old, printed programmes of former celebrations of dance were on display in the lobby—the very first of them, in December 1993, announced “original works from ballet to boogie.”
The transitions from video to performance in the evening show were seamless—from Tamar Kozlov’s video interviews shown on the wide screen to the actual performances on stage by gifted dancers and choreographers.
Janet Oxley described the effect on her young self when she watched Canadian prima ballerina Lois Smith, Order of Canada recipient, become a swan on stage. It was enough to inspire any young one to join a dance class. When Smith moved to the Coast in the early ‘90s, she became a founding member of the dance society. Dominique Hutchinson was in awe of the great dancer, learned from her, and later opened her own school in Gibsons. Katherine and Nancy Denham, from a dancing family, spoke about watching the famous ballerina.
“It was the hands I noticed,” said Katherine. “They are connected to the heart.”
Eibhlin Minastis took to the stage following Oxley’s interview, perfectly rendering The Swan (from Carnival of the Animals) to remind the audience of the beauty of ballet. Peter Reznick gave a joyful, bounding performance drawn from the ballet Coppelia while Alison Girard showed the audience how to fly on stage in Wings, with choreography by Christina Darwin. The supple Sylvain Brochu danced to live music from Tom Kellough on piano. Fans of Brittany Robertson were delighted to see her on the Coast again with Sarra Barinbaum in Ripple, choreographed by Robertson, their weight and energy balanced and supporting one another.
Video footage taken in 1997 and 1998 featured the creative work of Paul and Nicola Blakey. Dance should be a celebration, said Paul, noting that he didn’t like performing but he loved movement. It should be fun, he said—the video showed how the Blakeys meshed solid dance moves with entertaining and often humorous performances.
Maggie Guzzi recalled Verity Purdy, a self-described “hoofer” and founding member of the Dance Society, who remained involved in dance into her seventies.
Kwayimin Andy Johnson introduced the show along with young Solomon who danced and drummed. Kerry Mahlman reminded the crowd of how Indigenous stories have been told through dance for centuries.
Penny Hudson, who has danced and worked with dancers all her life as a teacher at Dance Works Academy (now merged with Dominique’s school to become Gibsons Dance Centre), reminded the audience of the sheer athleticism of dance.
“We should get the support that hockey players get,” she said. “Yeah!” The audience shouted in agreement. But it wasn’t all ballet and modern dance. Maria Avila, with Peter Mole on guitar, danced and sang a fiery flamenco. The show’s finale exploded on stage with a youthful and talented group from the Coast Academy of Dance that earned huge applause.